Isolationism Watch: America Gets the Blues and Blames China

I see that The Economist has noticed the same phenomenon I’ve been complaining about here:

The economic gap between America and a rising Asia has certainly narrowed; but worrying about it is wrong for two reasons. First, even at its present growth rate, China’s GDP will take a quarter of a century to catch up with America’s; and the internal tensions that China’s rapidly changing economy has caused may well lead it to stumble before then. Second, even if Asia’s rise continues unabated, it is wrong—and profoundly unAmerican—to regard this as a problem. Economic growth, like trade, is not a zero-sum game. The faster China and India grow, the more American goods they buy. And they are booming largely because they have adopted America’s ideas. America should regard their success as a tribute, not a threat, and celebrate in it.

Both of the presidential candidates have abetted such views here. From Sen. Obama:

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the frontrunners for the Democratic presidential nomination, have agreed to co-sponsor legislation that would levy punitive duties on Chinese goods to cajole Beijing into revaluing its currency, according to aides.

The endorsement is a sign that trade with China is emerging as a hot political issue in the upcoming ­election and increases the prospect of the legislation passing with a veto-proof majority, analysts said.

From Sen. McCain:

Dealing with a rising China will be a central challenge for the next American president. Recent prosperity in China has brought more people out of poverty faster than during any other time in human history. China’s newfound power implies responsibilities. It raises legitimate expectations that internationally China will behave as a responsible economic partner by developing a transparent code of conduct for its corporations, assuring the safety of its exports, adopting a market approach to currency valuation, pursuing sustainable environmental policies, and abandoning its go-it-alone approach to world energy supplies.

China could also bolster its claim that it is “peacefully rising” by being more transparent about its significant military buildup. When China builds new submarines, adds hundreds of new jet fighters, modernizes its arsenal of strategic ballistic missiles, and tests antisatellite weapons, the United States legitimately must question the intent of such provocative acts. When China threatens democratic Taiwan with a massive arsenal of missiles and warlike rhetoric, the United States must take note. When China enjoys close economic and diplomatic relations with pariah states such as Burma, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, tension will result. When China proposes regional forums and economic arrangements designed to exclude America from Asia, the United States will react.

To his credit Sen. McCain has characterized China more as a challenge to be faced than an inevitable enemy to be confronted but I wonder if people hear that in the mood that they’re in now.

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